Scientists may have found the source for eternal youth. After a series of tests, two separate teams of scientists from Harvard and Stanford universities, discovered that blood transfusions of young blood might reverse the ageing process and even cure Alzheimer’s Disease.
For their experiment, called “vampire therapy,” the researchers used blood of 3-month and 18-month old mice. As a result, it was found that older mice got stronger, exercised longer and performed better mentally after they were injected with blood from young mice, or even just with a substance that is more abundant in younger blood.
However, for the young mice, getting old blood was a definite setback. When conjoined to an older mouse, the creation of new cells in the young mouse slowed. Old blood seemed to cause premature aging.
Evidence was seen of new connections forming in the hippocampus, a brain region vital to memory and sensitive to ageing. Dendritic spines – finger-like extensions from the branches of neurons that are thought to play a role in memory formation – also became more dense.
If the same were seem in humans, it could lead to new therapies for recharging our aging brains and novel drugs for treating dementia.
Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the US team directed by Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray, from Stanford University, said: “Our data indicate that exposure of aged mice to young blood late in life is capable of rejuvenating synaptic plasticity and improving cognitive function.
“Future studies are warranted in aged humans and potentially those suffering from age-related neurodegenerative disorders.”
Another parallel research, from Harvard University, was focused on a substance that is more abundant in the blood of younger mice than old. That protein, called GDF11, is also found in human blood and its concentration also appears to decline with age, said Amy Wagers, an author on both papers.
“We all wonder why we were stronger and mentally more agile when young, and these two unusually exciting papers actually point to a possible answer: the higher levels of the protein GDF11 we have when young,” said Dr. Doug Melton, who helps head the department at Harvard. “There seems to be little question that, GDF11 has an amazing capacity to restore aging muscle and brain function.”
Last year the team discovered that the protein could repair damaged hearts. But the new study showed that raising the levels of the GDF11 protein in older mice improved the function of every organ in the body.
Although both the discoveries were made in mice, researchers are hoping to begin human trials in the next two to three years, in studies that could bring rapid improvements for human longevity and health.
Actually, Dr. Wyss-Coray is planning the first young-blood clinical trial at Stanford this year. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease will be given young blood, with researchers measuring their cognitive condition before and after.
Prof Lee Rubin, a Harvard stem cell biologist, added: “We do think that, at least in principle, there will be a way to reverse some of the decline of ageing with a single protein. It isn’t out of the question that GDF11, or a drug developed from it, might be worthwhile in (treating) Alzheimer’s disease.”